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The Stories Behind the Instagram Photos

Instagram seems to be the social media platform where people like to post their best photos. We talk about having a “Facebook life” and no one really knowing what goes on in our real lives, but I think this is amplified on Instagram.

So, instead of compiling a post of my top Instagram photos for 2016, I’ve decided to share the stories behind 16 photos.

These are the real stories behind the curated photos on Instagram…

Scotland Road Trips

2016 began with a bang. Literally.

I was at one of the biggest New Year celebrations in the world, Edinburgh’s Hogmanay Street Party.

I was watching one of my favourite Scottish bands, and I was back with the guy I love, also known as Phil.

Early morning on New Year’s Day, Phil, his Australian friend, and I took off on a road trip. The weather was mild, and despite the cloud, it was one of those rare days in the highlands where we could see everything clearly.

We had just one day, and with little traffic on the road, we started off at a relaxed pace, stopping to take a ton of photos of Glen Coe with its dusting of snow.

We sort of forgot about that little issue in the winter in Scotland called daylight hours…

After a leisurely lunch, we realised there wasn’t a whole lot of them left, and it became a race against the sun to make it to Eilean Donan Castle, where his friend was desperate to go. We arrived at sunset on the dot, which turned out to be the most perfect time.

This trip was the first time EB’s friend ever saw snow!

By the end of the day we would have him driving through it…

Alcazaba, Almería, Spain

I’d moved abroad four times before this year, but every time to an English-speaking country.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to live in a country that didn’t speak English; more just that circumstance happened that way. This year it was time to change that.

Moving to Spain was the convergence of several goals:

  • Move to a country where English is not the first language.
  • Learn another language (preferably Spanish).
  • Try my hand at teaching English.
  • Move back to Europe.

Despite knowing moving abroad is never easy, I was still surprised but how much I struggled when I first moved to Spain. The highs of moving abroad are some of the best, but the lows can be pretty low too.

My first day of teaching was a bit of a nightmare and I found learning the language difficult. But a little struggle never hurts when you’re going after something you really want.

Five months after I moved to Spain, I packed my bags to go to Edinburgh for the summer.

I posted this photo of my home city in Spain while I was on the bus to the airport to leave. Five months in, and I’d made another home.

London, England

I took this photo less than a minute before I got the surprise of my life.

Phil and I were wandering along Southbank in London.

I was chattering away about nothing in particular, as usual. It was one of those moments of pure happiness. It was June, and after too much long distance, I had the whole summer with my boyfriend ahead of me.

We went to London for a weekend away from Edinburgh, and I’d told him about how I wanted to see Tower Bridge, as I’d never managed to get close to it on previous London visits.

Well, this was as close as I got.

I turned around and lined up a selfie of us, but just after I took it, I noticed he wasn’t looking properly. In the split second that I turned to tell him so, he also turned, held out an open ring box and asked me to marry him.

I 100% did not see that coming!

After some “flapping” on my part and him then getting down on one knee because he was worried I didn’t believe him due to my lack of an actual coherent answer, I finally said yes.

The rest of the day was rather surreal, to say the least.

He whisked me away to lunch up The Shard. We spoke to family and friends over the phone, went to some of his old London haunts and met my cousin at a pub, where I got to have the excitement of telling someone in person! It all still makes me smile.

Kotor, Montenegro

This is my most popular photo of the year!

On the morning of my 29th birthday, I took a quick walk up the fort in Kotor, Montenegro.

Birthdays make me feel like reflecting, and I often like to spend a little time alone, thinking about where I’m at in life.

With one year left until the “big birthday”, I thought there would be a bit to think about.

Except I kept running into the same girl who eventually asked me to take her picture and offered to take mine.

We chatted a little she told me how she was waiting for her long-distance boyfriend to arrive in town so they could spend the week together.

And then, instead of thinking about how old I was apparently getting, I started thinking of something else.

It was the end of the summer and my last week with my fiancé before I returned to Spain, and we would be apart once again. I realised as much as society seems to be telling me to dread turning 30 in a year’s time, I don’t have any worries about it.

I have so many amazing things to look forward to and someone amazing to share them with.

And with that, I ran back down the fortress steps to start my birthday with my fiancé.

Edinburgh, Scotland

Near the beginning of 2015, I moved to Australia because my UK visa had ended, and I needed to regroup and reassess my next move. Literally.

It wasn’t an easy time to say the least.

I worked in an office job that I would leave behind when I left work, and as a distraction, I put myself through an online web design course in the evenings and finally got the guts to start this blog.

I had hoped it would serve as a creative outlet for my thoughts on travel and travel memories and a space to put the advice I often end up sharing with friends. It has exceeded my expectations.

This photo was taken in one of my favourite cafes in Edinburgh, my home away from my home in Spain since I returned to Europe at the very end of 2015.

It’s where I finished writing about my first year of this blog and all the things that have come along with it. This is more than just a blog to me. It helped save me once.

Glen Coe, Scotland

I definitely don’t make it a secret on this blog that Scotland is one of my most favourite places in all of the world. And I don’t even know if I’m very good at explaining why.

I grew up in New Zealand, that bucket-list-topping destination down in the South Pacific. Of course, I love it, and maybe if I didn’t grow up there, it would be my top destination.

But it feels a bit weird saying that about my home country. I think we have a more idealised view of the places we visit overseas, as opposed to our home as well. I know too much about New Zealand.

Now Scotland, I can romanticise, especially when it looks like this.

I’ve visited Glen Coe under many different circumstances and in many different seasons. I wrote an entire post about my stories of Glen Coe to show just that.

This was the first time I visited in the summer. It was a trip I convinced my parents to take because I wanted to see Glen Coe in all its green glory, and so here it is.

Luleå, Sweden

Thanks again to this blog, I went on my first-ever press trip this year.

If you don’t know what a press trip is, it’s where you’re shown an area and what it has to offer under the expectation that you’ll write about it for publication afterwards.

I went to Luleå in the far north of Sweden to experience this popular winter destination during summer.

The entire experience was a whirlwind. Travelling for work as a blogger is completely different from travelling for yourself. We had a tight schedule, so we could fit in all the awesome adventure activities like kayaking and fat biking.

I seriously had the best time, and I loved it, but it’s probably the most exhausted I’ve ever been while travelling!

One night we were staying in small cabins on an island in the Luleå archipelago. After a long day of kayaking, it was time for a beer, a sauna, and a swim.

This photo was taken not long before midnight and just after I had run into the water straight from the hot sauna.

Even in July in Luleå the water was cold, but I barely felt it.

After this photo, I sat on the shore, listening to the sound of the water lapping at the sand and staring out across the sea to a sun that refused to set. It’s probably my favourite moment from the entire trip.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, Scotland

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities (surprise), and in August, it transforms into one big festival playground.

There are twelve festivals in Edinburgh throughout the year, but five of them run simultaneously during August, and this year I spent a weekend going to all of them!

First up was the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, which is basically a show put on by people from all across the world against one of the best backdrops, Edinburgh Castle.

I’d been to the Edinburgh Tattoo once before, but this time I got to go as press as part of a group who were in town to cover the five festivals in August.

When we arrived at Edinburgh Castle, they told us we could go up to the top of the stands if we wanted to. The VERY top. Like, the scaffolding top!

It was so freezing up there despite it being the middle of summer in Scotland. I was definitely shivering through the second half, but it was the best view in the house, and the show was so good I couldn’t bring myself to go down!

When would I ever get to experience this again? (Spoiler alert: YES!)

Loch Ness, Scotland

After a crazy summer of a trip to Sweden for a blogging conference and my Luleå press trip, a week in Spain to renew my visa stuff there and August in Edinburgh, I was exhausted.

But I had one more thing on my agenda, a two-day Loch Ness and Highlands trip with Rabbies’s Tours. Luckily, I never tire of trips to the Scottish highlands.

To some, Loch Ness is just another lake. And that’s what it looks like on the surface. To others, it hides the possibility of an enormous creature unlike any other that we know. In any case, it’s yet another beautiful part of Scotland.

I’m not always a fan of organised trips, as I prefer to find my own way around places. The good thing about this trip with Rabbie’s was that we were driven to all these great places and told stories and history along the way, and then when we got there, I had the option to tag along with others on the trip or head off and do my own thing.

More often than not, I headed off and took in the scenery of some of my favourite places, remembering them as I saw them for the first time and thinking about how much and changed since I first arrived in Scotland four years ago.

Kotor, Montenegro

I couldn’t miss this photo off my favourites for 2016. This was the view from the balcony of our Airbnb in Kotor.

We spent almost a week here, and every morning and evening, I’d be on that balcony.

I swear we had the best view in Kotor from here since it was on the way up to the fortress, and there really weren’t any other balconies around. Just one teeny little thing, though…

Those church bells started at 6am.

Dubrovnik, Croatia

At the end of our Montenegro trip we spent one day in Dubrovnik, Croatia. One of the major things to do in Dubrovnik is walk around the city walls.

A bit over two years before this trip, I went to Croatia on a  sailing trip by complete chance. Two weeks before, my friend messaged me to say I could spend a week on a  sailboat for free if I could just get a flight there and back. Um, yes please?!

That wasn’t that long after my fiancé and I had been seeing each other. Little did I know I’d be back there with him. And making him take the same photo of me!

We chose the perfect time to walk the walls just as the sun was going down, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Here’s the original from May 2014…

Kotor, Montenegro

I know, another Montenegro photo. But they were the most popular and some of my favourites too!

I wouldn’t be surprised to see Montenegro really taking off as a travel destination in the next few years, even more than it already is.

I’ve chosen this one because it’s one of those photos that could be shown as an example with the definition of “Instagram boyfriend”.

Phil knew exactly what photo I meant when I mentioned it to him. When I travel, I take my photos by balancing my camera somewhere and using a timer, asking a random stranger (those barely ever work out) or asking whoever I’m with. Then I edit them to how I want them later.

It takes patience (and a bit of luck) to get a photo with no people in it when you’re in a popular place.

It’s not the end of the world to have people in a photo, but on this particular day, everyone seemed to be wearing bright fluorescent colours that stood out like a sore thumb!

I made Phil take a ton of photos as people walked in and out of the frame.

Then I made him take some more.

Then some more from another angle.

Then a few more… you get the idea. He was thrilled.

Madrid, Spain

After a summer away, I returned to Spain to continue my living in Spain and teaching English dream.

But I had another goal on my agenda. Apply for a visa to move back to the UK.

If you’ve ever been in a long-distance relationship, you’ll know that it sucks. If you haven’t, trust me.

Sometimes it’s ok when you’re figuring stuff out, and you’re going after other stuff you want in life. But it gets to a point where it just plain sucks.

It’s nothing to do with where you’re living or your life there, but you’re done being apart. We’re at that time.

Coming back to Spain was bittersweet. I genuinely love it here. I’ve learned so much, and I’m doing something I always wanted to do.

But I can also see what the future holds, and I’m ready for that life too.

So off to Madrid I went to put in my application for a fiancé visa to move back to the UK.

I’d been wanting to visit Madrid for a while, but because the whole process of applying for the visa was so stressful, I hadn’t had the energy to get excited about the trip. Instead, I was focused on getting to my visa appointment and getting it all right. I didn’t feel excited about the travel.

My appointment was on my first morning there. Afterwards, I had no real plan of what to do. So I wandered aimlessly around the streets of Madrid before searching for a few things online, as bloggers do.

I found out about this view from the Corte Inglés on Gran Via. I headed up there, and that’s when I started to remember why I love to travel and began to fall in love with it again.  

Toledo, Spain

I came for the sunset, and I got it.

I was in Madrid for five days. Because even though I wasn’t excited about the trip, I wanted to make the most of being in a new place and travel to some nearby places, too (I can never resist doing that).

Toledo is just half an hour by train and one of the best day trips from Madrid. I knew I had to go. I underestimated the popularity of train tickets the first time and had to postpone my trip by a day, and then I underestimated how much time I would need there.

I ended up almost running around trying to take in everything I wanted to see. This included buying marzipan directly from nuns at different convents.

But the main thing I wanted to do in Toledo was see the sunset from the viewpoint across the river.

It’s kind of hard to judge the perfect time, and since I planned to take a taxi there before heading back to the train station, I had to time it well.

I almost didn’t make it.

As the taxi drove towards the top, the sun had already gone away from most of the town, and only the highest monuments were glowing orange from the sun.

I was certain I was about to miss the main reason I’d come here to begin with. After what felt like forever, the taxi driver found a free space to pull over, and I jumped out for just a few snaps. Luckily, they turned out to be good ones.

Granada, Spain

Every couple in a long-distance relationship has their standard times apart. If possible, Phil and I would see each other every four weeks or so, but a few times, it’s stretched to 7 or 8 weeks. This was one of those times, and with the visa application in and the uncertainty around it, it felt even longer.

It was his birthday week, and we were spending it together in Granada.

It was weird to be seeing each other after such a stressful break in a place that wasn’t either of our homes.

But Granada, mostly thanks to the Alhambra, is probably one of the most beautiful places we could have been.

We walked the narrow streets, got lost and hungry and grumpy, and spoke about all sorts of topics. Many of them related to our future.

And to my new camera! I finally upgraded from using my iPhone 6S as my main camera, and I was testing it out at every opportunity.

We went to the lookout where the whole city seems to go to see the sunset before walking up towards the caves on the hill, where we found this perfect spot with nobody there but us.

Alicante, Spain

Sometimes things don’t happen how we want them to or even how we think they might. I applied for my visa to move back to the UK in October, and despite researching estimated times beforehand, I’m still waiting.

That also means I’m without my passport.

Back in September, I booked a flight to go to the UK for Christmas.

My parents would be in Spain, and they were going to drive my flatmate and me to Alicante to catch out flight to Scotland on the 23rd of December.

Instead, I waved her off and stayed in Spain.

I feel like sometimes we can see the different paths of our lives stretched out before us more clearly than others.

As we explored Alicante that day, I could clearly picture myself having taken the flight and arriving in Scotland and what would happen in the days that followed.

I had a weird feeling like I was somewhere I wasn’t meant to be, and yet, it was like an opportunity to be doing something I didn’t think I would.

Now I’m travelling around more of Spain and making the most of the opportunity, but it comes with a weird feeling that I’m not meant to be here. But I am.

And there we have it. One year of the behind-the-scenes of Instagram.

I know there’s so much more behind the pictures than what I show at the time.

Not even intentionally; it just happens that way!

I hope this gives you some more insight into what it’s like behind the images.

Does your social media life reflect the real thing?

Sonja x

If you liked it, pin it! 

Stories Behind Instagram Photos
Stories Behind Instagram Photos
Stories Behind Instagram Photos
Stories Behind Instagram Photos

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